Saddam Hussein's handwriting scrutinised in court

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BAGHDAD, Apr 17 (Reuters) Saddam Hussein and seven co-accused returned to court today and proceedings focused on attempts to prove the ousted Iraqi president signed documents implicating him in crimes against humanity, a witness said.

A criminal expert's report was read out in court which said Saddam's signatures were on documents connecting him with the killing of 148 Shi'ite men and teenagers after an attempt on his life in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam and his half-brother and former intelligence chief Barzan al-Tikriti have refused to give the Iraqi tribunal in Baghdad a sample of their handwriting.

One of Saddam's lawyers, Khamis al-Obeidi, requested the court appoint other experts, saying those testifying were members of the Interior Ministry.

''They cannot be independent when they have links to the Interior Ministry and the state,'' he said.

Saddam, wearing a dark suit and white shirt, sat in a metal pen listening quietly as the report was presented in court.

He could soon face a new trial on charges of genocide against the Kurds in the 1980s.

REUTERS SRS DS1404

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